The best things in life are free. But a free fall? Hell no, definitely. It is an exception to that adage.
For the fourth straight time, lady luck was not on the side of the UP Fighting Maroons as they got dislodged easily by the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 56-43. With this loss, the descend of UP continues, plummeting to a familiar place in the standings — seventh place, just above the winless Adamson Soaring Falcons.
There is not much of Kiefer Ravena heroics for the Blue Eagles this time around as he put on a measly 11 points, a point more than half of his average in his first five games this season. However, Ateneo blitzed early on to give them a sizable margin that they hold on until the very end. The Fighting Maroons tried to make a run early in the third, but the Blue Eagles always had something to counter. Also, when UP tried to attack the paint, Chibueze Ikeh was denying them scoring opportunities.
Just like in their three previous losses, offense was once again a major concern for the Fighting Maroons as they tallied a lowly offensive rating of 59.2 per 100. Buckets were hard to come by in the first half as they laid one brick after the other, missing 20 of the last 21 field goal attempts in the process.
Game Notes and Observations
1. The only constant thing in UP’s world is defense.
By this time, it is as clear as day that the UP Fighting Maroons have established themselves as a defensive squad. Offense may or may not exist for them in one game but their defense will always be present. And this was clearly evident in this game. While they were struggling to make their shots in this contest, it did not dampen their spirits to defend, limiting Ateneo to produce 0.7715 point per possession, just a shade above UP’s offensive rating which is the lowest mark this season.
2. The ever-changing pecking order in point guard spot
Another thing that you’ll notice with the Fighting Maroons is the high utilization of their players. Coach Rency Bajar has used almost all of his entire squad in six UP games this season. players. So far, twelve UP players are playing at least ten minutes per game. He does not have a specific set of five players which he favors to use come crunch time. One position that he is very particular with is the point guard spot. It seems that the pecking order of the floor generals changes every game. In the early going, Diego Dario and Henry Asilum were sharing the playing time. Suddenly, then third stringer Jarrell Lim has gained more minutes in the game against FEU. Since then, Bajar has inserted him in the rotation.
As of the moment, there is no clear top point guard for the Fighting Maroons. The three guards each have strengths and weaknesses. Dario is the best shot creator among the three but he gets exploited on defense by the bigger and more polished guards in the league. Asilum is the most experienced but his playmaking ability is spotty, attesting to that is his low efficiency of 59.3 ORTG yet high usage rate of 26.4%. Jarrell Lim is the best defender among them but he has only assisted 10% of UP’s field goals when he is on the court.
3. On tracking of Apacible’s perfect record so far
This has nothing to do against John Apacible, even if he silently killed the Fighting Maroons in this contest with his offensive rebounds and easy baskets. In fact, I would love to have him in the UP squad, if trades are possible. He’s a promising guy with a tremendous upside and he could be a vital cog for the Blue Eagles in the coming years.
This season, he has taken ten field goal attempts and has missed none so far. While we really adore perfection, we should stop harping it every time he makes a shot as if it’s one huge deal. I don’t get it. It’s just ten shots in six games, which translates to 1.7 per game.
With the skid extending now to four games, the Fighting Maroons have to make the necessary adjustments, especially on the offensive end. Their inability to produce points has been killing them. It is not enough that they defend well. After all, basketball is won by the team that has the higher score at the end of the game. With their next game coming up against the struggling Soaring Falcons to close out their first round schedule, they must regroup in order to return to winning ways.